Currently, an all-party federal electoral reform committee (ERRE) is studying whether we should change how we vote in federal elections and they want your input before October 7th, 2016!
Pondering the details and innards of how we vote may not be a topic high on our daily agendas however, it has significance to us all. Have you ever felt that your vote was wasted or felt pressured to vote strategically? If so, you are not alone. In fact, in the last federal election, over nine million votes cast did not elect anyone. In other words, although these nine million voters took the time to go to the polls and cast a vote, the sad truth is that the outcome would have been the same if these same nine million voters had stayed home.
This is a very problematic feature of our outdated first past the post voting system used in Canada. Another disturbing feature of our current system is our majority governments almost never have the majority of support from the voters on Election Day. In the last two federal elections, the party that won had 39 per cent of the support of voters, but received a majority of seats in the House of Commons (hmmmm). To be clear, this is not to suggest voters should stay home. Quite the opposite we need greater voter turnout and participation for a healthy democracy. However, encouraging voter participation is not enough. We also need to ensure that voter intention is fairly reflected in the outcomes of our elections. And I wonder, if the vote made a difference, would more vote?
I believe it is time that Canada adopted a system of proportional representation (often referred to as PR). There are many proportional voting systems and options within each. Eighty-five per cent of all OECD countries use some form of proportional representation to elect their governments. You may have heard of mixed member proportional (MMP) used in New Zealand and Germany, or Single Transferable Vote (STV) used in Ireland. What all proportional systems have in common is they allow voter intention to be reflected in the outcome of the election. If 40 per cent of voters choose purple, there would be close to 40 per cent purple Members of Parliament. (Close to because most PR systems certainly those being considered in Canada have a threshold of four to seven per cent support a party needs to obtain before that party will elect an MP).
To learn more about PR, Professor Arend Lijpharts work is excellent. His testimony to the All Party Committee given on August 22nd can be read here: https://openparliament.ca/committees/electoral-reform/42-1/13/. If you are on Twitter, check out #ERRE and #EngagedinER. You can view three short videos on different PR systems at the Fair Vote Canada website at http://www.fairvote.ca/proportional-representation.
Those interested in expressing views on electoral reform should do so before October 7th, 2016. You submit a brief on the committee site. As well, the Electoral Reform Committee can be emailed at ERRE@parl.gc.ca and our local MP emailed at email@example.com.
Amber van Drielen